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Wet weather doesn't derail student celebration

April 22nd, 2014 10:58 pm by Max Hrenda

Wet weather doesn't derail student celebration

Organizers said more than 400 students turned out for the tailgating concert held in the parking lot of University Edge Apartments. (Photos by Dave Boyd/Johnson City Press)

As the East Tennessee State University baseball team prepared to square off against the University of Tennessee in front of this season’s first sellout home crowd, a student housing company decided to help its residents prepare to tailgate in style.

On Tuesday, in the hours leading up to the game, University Edge Apartments and Heights at 1301 held a special tailgating event that featured freshly grilled food and two live musical performances in the parking lot adjacent to left field of Thomas Stadium, where the game was played.

In October, both University Edge and Heights at 1301 joined Peak Campus Management, a student housing company out of Atlanta. According to Napoleon Rivera, director of resident life at Heights at 1301, the event was held in celebration of that merger and the changes wrought from it, but also to show off a little ETSU pride.

“We were wanting to show the student body the support we have for the Buccaneers, and, of course, (during) the biggest game of the season, the UT game,” Rivera said.

Rivera said more than 400 people turned out for the event, but that he and his staff stopped counting at 6 p.m. Despite the final turnout, however, the event got off to a slow start as gray skies and patches of rain threatened to cancel it before it started. Nevertheless, at 4:30, the Los Angeles-based pop group My Crazy Girlfriend took the stage to perform for the crowd, which, Rivera said, was smaller than he had envisioned.

“I think we would have had better attendance at the beginning (except) for the weather,” Rivera said.

Despite those conditions, however, MCG performed four songs to kick off the event, closing with their most recent single, “Crazy Stupid Love.” That song was interrupted, though, by the whistle of a passing train as it passed along the tracks to the south of the parking lot. Despite the interruption, however, the band shared a laugh on stage, and joked about the incident with the audience afterward.

“Give it up one more time for the train!” singer Myah Marie yelled to the crowd. “We planned that.”

As the afternoon continued and weather conditions improved, attendance grew and activities commenced. Students passed the time playing cornhole and beer pong, but the most popular space in the parking lot may have been the one occupied by the grill. The housing company provided food and refreshments at no cost, which ensured a busy evening for Paul Hubert, an ETSU senior, who said he cooked approximately 120 hamburgers in more than three hours.

“Everybody wants something to eat,” Hubert said. “So you’ve got to stay busy.”

As people began to congregate on the parking lot’s north side, where the grill was located, a minority of them ventured to the south side to be closer to the event’s headlining act, The Breakfast Club — a 1980s tribute band out of Atlanta. Rivera speculated that, because the stage was set up across the parking lot from the grill area, students felt less inclined to get closer to the show.

“I figure, if we would have brought (the stage) closer, then a lot of the students would have gravitated toward the concert,” Rivera said. “But since everybody was hanging out in this first portion, people didn’t want to.”

Regardless, the band finished its set, which included covers of songs like Bon Jovi’s “Shot through the Heart,” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” Despite the lack of attendance on his side of the parking lot, band manager and keyboardist Jerry Finley said the band was pleased with the event’s outcome.

“I would have loved to have had a lot more people,” Finley said. “But we got up and did our job, and had fun doing it, so that’s all that matters to us.”

Although he said the placement of the stage may have been made in error, Rivera said he hoped to take the experiences of this year’s event — both the positive and negative ones — and use them as guides for future ones.

“Next year, we’re hoping to go bigger and better,” Rivera said. “But we believe it was a great success.”

Follow Max Hrenda on Twitter @MaxLHrenda. Like him on Facebook at facebook.com/jcpresshrenda.

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